The Destruction of Troy
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The Destruction of Troy
A Diplomatic and Color Facsimile Edition of Hunterian MS V.2.8 in Glasgow University Library, John Clerk of Whalley. Ed. Hiroyuki Matsumoto. SEENET Publications. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002. CD-ROM. <http://www3.iath.virginia.edu/seenet/publications.html>

It has been over a century since an editor has tackled the 14,000 lines of The Destruction of Troy, so Matsumoto’s work here is a welcome and long overdue addition to Middle English scholarship. My review of this digital edition, as well as the edition of William of Palerne following, focuses upon their overall scholarly utility and accessibility—their helpfulness to a wide range of academic readers—rather than philological, editorial, and paleographical minutiae, although I may glance briefly at the latter. In general, Matsumoto’s digital color facsimile and diplomatic edition are useful, if somewhat limited, tools for scholars working on the Destruction. One of these limitations has to do with timing. Matsumoto acknowledges in the preface that this edition was originally planned, like other SEENET projects, to be a digital facsimile accompanied by both diplomatic and critical editions of the text, but that delays in editing forced him to publish the facsimile with the diplomatic text only. Without full consideration of the critical edition, which was published in 2010, any review of Matsumoto’s 2002 diplomatic edition must be somewhat incomplete.

However, this edition is thorough and well-presented for what it is: a diplomatic text of a single-manuscript poem. The introductory materials are easy to navigate and comprehensive in content, particularly Sections V (Language) and VI (Meter). Matsumoto’s expertise in philology and phonology is evident here, and in presenting such detailed analyses of the language and metrics of this lengthy work he has certainly made a signal contribution to the field. For those users not interested in the paleographical or linguistic side of the Destruction, the Introduction’s book-by-book summary of the entire poem will be useful. This kind of [End Page 160] organized summary makes this rather dense text a bit easier to navigate, as does the parallel browser display showing the manuscript’s contents and book titles on the left, with the transcription and image links on the right. The transcriptional display is intuitively presented, with any differentiated scripts or spacing on the manuscript page reflected in an easily identified similar style in the transcription.

Color coding is used to identify corrections, erasures, deletions, or insertions by one of the two scribal hands in the manuscript, and while this system is useful, I found it a bit inconvenient that the codes are tucked away under “Display Conventions” in the “Instructions for First-Time Users.” However, these color-coded elements demonstrate Matsumoto’s thorough understanding of the scribe’s changing script styles and textual adjustments. These are easily identified in the transcription—much more easily identified, certainly, than on the manuscript page itself. Most of the manuscript is written in the scribe’s cursive-style bastard Secretary script, and erasures or changes in styles are not always immediately clear. Matsumoto’s transcription and color-coded elements rectify this for the reader.

As one may expect in a good diplomatic edition, Matsumoto’s only adjustments to the text have been for the purposes of basic clarification. For example, since the thorn and the letter y are identical in form, Matsumoto transcribes them as either thorn or y according to the intended sound in each occurrence. He does state that in the Introduction that “punctuation and passage division are editorial,” but he has been very restrained in such decisions. With the publication of his critical edition forthcoming at the time of this electronic edition’s release, it was, I think, expected and appropriate that his diplomatic text would be simple, clear, and relatively untouched. Having said this, however, I did expect to see a more thorough recording of marginal markings, such as the x’s in the margins, the flourishes that tend to accompany bold-faced words, and the underlining. While I did not have the chance to review each folio image, I did note two annotations that went unacknowledged (through either transcription or...